Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Picture of the day

I was flipping channels a few minutes ago and came across Chris Matthews arguing with Tom Tancredo, and losing badly, about creationism vs. science. Tancredo, an extreme right wing xenophobe, if not much worse, wiped the floor with Matthews. If I were more of an idiot, I might think that creationist argument makes a lot of sense.

I know, I know, Matthews is a clown but so are altogether too many other people on any particular issue, myself included. Still, a big time tv interviewer should be prepared to destroy a creationist. They're paid a lot of fucking money to prepare for these interviews. A high schooler should be able to tear the creationist a new asshole. Easily. Fuck man, in this day and age, the demonstrated ability to destroy creationist arguments should be a requirement for graduation. It's a low bar, granted, and I'm not saying it should be the only requirement for high school graduation, only one of many. But anyone who can't jump that minuscule hurdle should not be given a diploma. On a bad day I'd almost argue they shouldn't even have the right to vote. People who can't effectively argue with lame-ass creationist bullshit are too poorly educated to function responsibly in a democratic society. I know, I know, democracy is inherently non-exclusive. Wouldn't work any other way.

But what about the people who make those lame-ass bullshit arguments for creationism? Are they really that stupid? Or do they have other agendas? Are they just reeling in the rubes as a means to some other end? Or both?

Both, I'm sure, but I've noticed that the creationists talk about the horrors of the modern world almost as much, if not more than they talk about the inerrancy of the bible and their 6000-year-old earth theories. They really hate the modern world. Dinosaurs on Noah's ark get the kids through the doors, but the explicit message once they're in the door is that the modern world sucks. Wanna fix it? Visit the gift shop, you'll find all kinds of useful information. There are dinosaur toys for the kids. Dinosaur clothes for the little ones. Dinosaurs are so cute. Kids love them.

Creationists have clever-sounding arguments, exquisite logical fallacies, that appeal to the poorly educated. Simple answers to simple questions. They have training programs to help those so inclined make those simple argument. They go to training seminars. They buy training DVDs on-line. They learn how to make those simple arguments. Wanna fuck with them? They know what you're going to say and they have a well-practiced answer for that. And they count on you to publicly show respect for their religious beliefs. You have your opinion, they have theirs. If you are going to argue with them, you'd better be prepared with facts. Cause they are prepared for you.

You won't see them explain themselves so nakedly on national television, but in the deep recesses of their culture they phrase it this way: Beliefs are beliefs and we all have them. So when it comes down to it, who are you going to believe? The sad deluded souls rotting in this hell of a modern world or God? Who you gonna believe, huh? Lost souls? Evil people? Or God?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Picture of the day

We're living in a significant time. Great changes are possible and the consequences of missing these opportunities to change will most likely prove devastating. If history demonstrates anything it demonstrates that turning our fortunes over to greedy sociopaths is not a good move. Boom and bust cycles are predictable. Sustainable? No. My nephew works for an advanced business degree at Wharton. I know another guy who went to the same elite business-oriented school in Paris, also went to Wharton and became a successful derivatives trader. Both of them think highly of American freedom and capitalism, not that they make any differentiation between the two, and are happy to sing our praises to anyone who will listen. France? Nice place to grow up and get a fine education. The wine wine is fine fine and the dining as well. Socialist hellhole though. Can't make your billions there. Really sucks. Not like the U.S. where freedom is free and if you're smart they'll pay you for it. The graduates from Wharton and a few other top business schools dominate the financial markets. They've pocketed uncountable billions of dollars. Set for life, they are. Not just their own lives. Generations of their progeny. They'll fuck up anything, anything on earth or outer space, for that money. Those assets. The prestige. More than anything, the prestige. They need help.

Now is one of those rare moments of history when the sociopath greedheads have exposed themselves as the sociopath greeheads they are. They have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that they care fuckall for anything not related to their net worth and that unconstrained, will destroy anything that crosses their paths. Unchecked, they'll destroy anything, even the world. An overwhelming majority of leading scientists are quite clear on this. Unchecked capitalism will destroy the world. For humans anyway. Never mind the billions of individuals that die from other species. The story ends the same way in too many fields of science.

Someone (responsible, you know, I don't mean me) needs to explain all this to humanity at large and the American people in particular so that we can enact checks and balances to stop these sociopaths from fucking everything up so badly. We need to use our tax and other financial laws to herd these types into less destructive avenues of attaining personal satisfaction. They could be carnies or something. Guess your weight. Three card monte. Not exactly respectable, but relatively harmless. Now is the time to make that argument. That greed is not good. Now, when just about everyone knows it's true.

Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen. We're going to give "greed is good" at least another chance or two to prove itself a utilitarian philosophy. To prove, against all evidence, that a rising tide lifts everything in the water.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Picture of the day

I'm starting to dread Fridays. Last Friday everyone in my company got a significant pay cut. This Friday the landlord raised the rent. Just a slice of life in the New Depression, eh? What will next Friday bring? I don't even want to know.

My daughter Jane Bob is finishing up her junior year in high school, which means tests and lots of them. I don't mean tests in whatever subjects she's studying at school, those are pretty low stress. No, I mean college related tests. She took the SAT with writing yesterday. By the end of the month she will also have taken three SAT II's, the ACT and three AP's. What a bunch of shite, eh?

We've pretty much done everything the right way, but a lot of parents out there are plumb crazy. Did you know that typical over achieveing parents arrange diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder for their kids so that they can do better on the SAT? I shit you not. The ADD diagnosis benefits the test taker two ways: he or she gets twice the time to finish the test and a dose of Adderall on top of that. Adderall is an amphetamine that helps a child focus and increases stamina. It's good for at least 50 points on the test. Reportedly.

Imagine that. Giving your kids amphetamines for 50 points on a test. What kind of monster would do something like that? But you gotta give them this. The test is important. Jane Bob went to an exhaustive test prep class for almost six months. She had taken at least 10 practice tests before taking the real one yesterday. The practice tests were composed of medium and difficult questions, no easy ones. But the practice paid off, as it always does. She felt she did very well on the real thing and given all her experience, I'd be surprised if she didn't get the score she needs. Hopefully, she'll only have to take the test once and can move on. Most of the really motivated parents make their kids take the test several times. The colleges only see the best scores on each section. Crazy stuff, huh?

So yea, I'll be glad to see the stupid tests over with. Then we can move on to college selection and applications. She'll also have to take challenging subjects and do well in class for the fall of her Senior year, which won't be a problem. Poor kid is taking Physics and Calculus. Nuts, innit? The payoff for the kids that do what it takes is that they don't have to do anything the second half of senior year. Europe on spring break. Turn eighteen. Party. Of course if she fucked up yesterday, we might have to look into the ADD thing after all. Maybe twice the dose would add 100 points?

Just kidding. Although we've gone through the motions of doing everything that has to be done to get in an elite school, we've never been obsessed with it or gotten stressed out. We were very fortunate to get Jane Bob into a high school that doesn't do grades, so we don't have to worry about GPA, which is a stress factor up there with the SAT for kids in a normal school. The other day we were at a large get-together for high achievers and the woman running the show asked how many of the kids were horribly miserable in school this year because all of the college related stress, especially the need to make good grades, a high GPA. All of the hands went up except those from our school. Jane Bob and most of her friends have no concept of what it's like to be miserable in school. That is something I could never have imagined back in my day. I couldn't imagine not being miserable in school. So I consider getting kids through high school without being miserable the greatest possible parental accomplishment. By far. We're almost there.